On one hand, it’s a little terrifying when Hollywood decides to adapt a book that you love. You know they’re going to change shit. You know they’re going to switch things all around, and even if you can understand the reason they’re doing it, a part of you is just dying inside, going, But . . . but . . . that’s not the way it happens at ALL!
On the other hand, I sometimes feel like Hollywood is making a movie off of Oprah’s Book List every three months, and in between The Help, Eat Pray and Love, and the latest Nicholas Sparks film to come out, I find myself wishing that Hollywood would adapt a book I actually liked, for once.
And so I made a list.
10 Books That I Would Like To See (Good) Film Adaptations Of
Disclaimer: I tried not to pick too many books that I already knew were in development (The Giver, for example) but if a project’s really not very far along—like, the studio’s only announced the plan to make an adaptation—you may see the book here.
1. Sunset and Sawdust – Joe R. Lansdale
Plot Summary: It’s the 1930’s in East Texas. Sunset Jones is married to the local constable, who also happens to be an abusive scumbag. When he tries to rape her, she kills him, and ends up getting the job of constable herself. No one expects her to do well, but Sunset will have to prove them wrong when she is immediately thrust into solving the murder of a woman and a baby who are found covered in oil.
Why I Want To See It: Because I can count the number of westerns with female protagonists on one hand. And I’m including The Quick and the Dead. And Bad Girls. No one wants to include Bad Girls. Sunset and Sawdust is a straight-forward, funny, and often brutally violent novel that wants absolutely nothing to do with camp. Normally, I’m all for camp, but not in this story. Sunset Jones is an awesome, kickass heroine, and I’d love to see her come to life on the big screen.
Concerns: Casting and tone. You need a believable badass, not someone who poses sexy, holds a gun, and occasionally pouts at something. I have no interest in seeing Sunset Jones turned into a joke.
Casting Possibilities: Amy Adams is an obvious choice because of the red hair. Also, she’s a really good actress. I’d like to see her in something a little different. Other possibilities . . . well, it’s kind of typecasting, I’d expect, but Joelle Carter from Justified could definitely play this role.
2. Lamb – Christopher Moore
Plot Summary: Pretty much what it says on the tin: it’s a retelling of Jesus Christ’s life from the point of view of his best friend, Biff.
Why I Want To See It: To see those scary religious people with their tacky signs and sandwich boards completely lose their shit. And also, because Lamb is a really good novel. It’s not just outrageous and hilarious and absurd—it is all those things, but it’s also surprisingly sad, lovely, and affecting. There’s a real relationship between Biff and Joshua (Jesus). Maggie’s pretty awesome too.
Concerns: Other than it actually getting made in a country that has a meltdown every December about Merry Christmas vs Happy Holidays vs Who Gives a Flying Fuck? Tone, mostly. I don’t want this to be a mindless parody that only focuses on the crazy stuff. Lamb actually has something to say. Let’s not have Will Ferrell as Jesus and, I don’t know, Jonah Hill as Biff, okay?
Casting Possibilities: I’m honestly not sure. It’s been awhile since I reread Lamb. Maybe I’ll get back to you on that.
3. The Last Vampire – Christopher Pike
Plot Summary: Sita is a 5,000 year old vampire. A PI starts following her around, trying to blackmail her. Naturally, she kills him. But she doesn’t know who hired him, so she pretends to be a high school student to get close to the PI’s son, Ray. And then, of course, she starts to develop feelings for Ray.
Why I Want To See It: Because there’s a way to do young adult vampire stories, and this is the way to do it. After Twilight, there’s been a backlash against sexy vampires instead of scary ones (assuming you think glitter is sexy), but there’s really no reason you can’t have both sexy and scary vampires. Also, you don’t see a lot of girl vampires in these type of stories. Let the human innocent be a guy, for once.
Concerns: There’s a lot of Hindu mythology in The Last Vampire, and while it’s interesting, I’m worried about how it will translate to a movie. You can’t just cut it out—it’s important to the storyline, particularly the villain—but I’m not entirely sure how well Krishna’s going to sell.
Casting Possibilities: Tricky. I don’t know a lot of actresses in the right age range. Jennifer Lawrence, maybe?
4. The Child Thief – Brom
Plot Summary: A modern and very dark retelling of Peter Pan. Nick is a teenage runaway in New York who is tricked by Peter into following him into Neverland. Once there, Nick must survive his initiation into Peter’s tribe of stolen and bloodthirsty children, only to be drafted into a war to save the dying land.
Why I Want To See It: Because I’m all about dark retellings of fairy tales and children’s stories, and this is about as dark as it gets. The Child Thief is so layered and gorgeous and violent and sad. You get a really interesting look at all the complexities of Peter Pan. Plus, the artwork in this novel is stunning. It would make for a beautiful film.
Concerns: The studio might get nervous and tone down the brutality and/or just change the entire ending. The Child Thief isn’t exactly what I’d call an uplifting book, but you can’t just slap a happily ever after on it without ruining everything that came before it. I cannot stress this enough: this story is NOT meant for children.
Casting Possibilities: No idea, but I’d give my left arm to see Guillermo del Toro direct it.
5. Night of the Living Trekkies – Keith David Anderson and Sam Stall
Plot Summary: Zombies attack a Star Trek convention. Jim Pike and various other Trekkies try to make it out alive.
Why I Want To See It: Are you kidding me? Why wouldn’t I want to see it? Trekkies fighting zombies with replica bat’leths? It’d be like I died and went to heaven. Seriously, we did well with Scott Pilgrim vs The World (a movie about geeks for geeks by geeks) but if you think that’s enough to satisfy me . . . well, you don’t know me that well. I would love to see this movie. I’d be first in line at the midnight showing.
Concerns: That somebody would try to mainstream it and tone down the Trek humor. Because, clearly, all the women who went to see, say, Eat Pray Love would totally go see this movie, if only we took out a few more of those references to the Borg, or you know, just stop mentioning TOS entirely.
Casting Possibilities: Character development isn’t exactly this novel’s strongest feature, so you can get almost any awesome actor and just watch them outshine the page. Chris Evans has quite the geek resume. I’m arbitrarily casting him as Jim. Oh, and clearly, this should be directed by Edgar Wright.
6. Dealing With Dragons – Patricia C. Wrede
Plot Synopsis: Princess Cimorene likes doing things that aren’t done. Sword-fighting, for instance. Learning magic. Cooking cherries jubilee. But the only thing she’s supposed to do is look pretty and marry the dim Prince Therandil. So Cimorene runs away and ends up dealing with dragons, instead.
Why I Want To See It: Because it’s a favorite story of mine from childhood, and it would make a nice fit with the fairy tale craze coming to a theater near you this 2012. Cimorene is a strong, likable heroine, and there is a good supporting cast of characters: Kazul, Morwen, Alianora, and of course, Therandil. It would also be nice to see a live-action film do a light-hearted, funny take on fairy tales. Normally, this kind of thing would scream Pixar, but I’d really like to see Dealing With Dragons as a live-action, for some reason.
Concerns: Mostly that the dragons would be terrible CGI instead of Jim Henson puppets, the way God intended.
Casting Possibilities: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, maybe? I feel like I nominate her a lot, but I think she could do it, and I can’t think of anyone else offhand. I’d say Keira Knightley as a possibility, but I suspect that she might be done with less-serious fantasy movies like this. And I kind of want James Marsden as Therandil, but he already did that role for Enchanted. Dammit.
7. Hero – Perry Moore
Plot Summary: Thom Creed is a teenager hiding two secrets from his father: he has superpowers, and he’s gay. He secretly joins The League, an organization of superheroes, and meets up with a few other superpowered misfits. But when Thom realizes there’s a conspiracy in The League, it will be up to him and his new friends to stop it.
Why I Want To See It: Because it was a fun, easy read that I finished in a day, and because it does a good job discussing coming out without seeming overly preachy. Thom’s a likable hero—despite his incessant knack for putting his foot straight in his mouth—and I like that while the book is mostly positive, it doesn’t have a complete bow-tie (that is, unrealistically happy) ending. Also, it’d be nice to see a superhero movie that wasn’t adapted from a graphic novel series.
Concerns: How Thom is written and portrayed. The fact that he’s gay is, of course, incredibly important to both the character and the story, but that shouldn’t suggest that it’s also his only defining character trait.
Casting Possibilities: I know I’m probably not supposed to pick Chris Colfer because he’s such an obvious choice, but . . . well, he’s a really good actor. I’ve completely given up on Glee for several different reasons, but he was easily one of my favorite things about it when I did watch the show. So he’s a possibility.
8. Patient Zero – Jonathan Maberry
Plot Summary: Joe Ledger is a detective who’s recruited to lead a special government task force when he has to kill a guy he already killed earlier that week. And it’s a good thing, too, because a terrorist cell is about to strike with a biological weapon that turns people into zombies.
Why I Want To See It: Because what you rarely see in zombie films is a competent police force. Oh, sure, there might be one badass cop who’s managed to make it out alive, but a zombie attack almost always spells out apocalypse. Patient Zero—along with Maberry’s non-fiction book: Zombies CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead—is the rare argument that the zombie apocalypse is actually preventable. Besides, it’s just a kickass action story.
CONCERNS: The book switches back and forth between the good guys and the bad guys. (That is, the terrorists, not the zombies.) I’m not certain if this would work well in the film or not—although cutting them out entirely would eliminate Toys, and that would be sad.
CASTING CHOICES: I’m not sure, but I can tell you some action stars I don’t want. Sam Worthington, for instance. Or Mark Wahlberg.
9. Boneshaker – Cherie Priest
Plot Summary: It’s the late 1800’s. Leviticus Blue is blamed for his invention that destroys Seattle and poisons the air so that anyone who breathes it will become a zombie. Years later, his son, Zeke, sneaks over the wall into Seattle to clear his father’s name. His mother, Briar, has to find an airship to fly her in so she can go and rescue her son.
Why I Want To See It: Because I want a full-blown steampunk movie. Oh sure, Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movies have aspects of steampunk, but I want it all: zeppelins, zombies, pirates, gas masks, petticoats, etc. I want an unabashed steampunk story to make it to the cinema, and as far as unabashed steampunk stories goes, Boneshaker is a pretty good one.
Concerns: That I’ll just get aspects. Like I’ll get the zombies but lose the airship, or that the story will take place in the past but tweak it so it’s not so obviously an alternate reality. Maybe they’d move it to Roanoke in the 1500’s or something. I don’t know. You’d think all those revisions would be a lot more trouble than they’d be worth.
Casting Possibilities: I’m not sure. Again, it’s been awhile since I’ve read this one—so many of the books I’ve read recently have been too disappointing to try and adapt—and I don’t have a clear picture of Briar anymore, other than the fact that she’s a strong woman. (Is my liking for strong female protagonists too obvious? Oh well.) So I’m just going to tentatively suggest Paget Brewster from Criminal Minds right now because she can play a strong woman and I’d like to see her in more things.
10. The Bottoms – Joe R. Lansdale
Plot Summary: It’s 1930’s East Texas. Thirteen-year old Harry and his little sister discover the body of a mutilated black woman and tell their father, Jacob (who’s also the constable and also the barber). Jacob tries to solve the murder, but no one’s very interested until a white woman is also found murdered. Then all hell breaks loose.
Why I Want To See It: I honestly don’t understand how this book hasn’t been made into a movie yet. It has Oscar nominee all over it. It takes place during the Depression. It’s a coming of age story. It’s a mystery. It deals with racism. I can actually see the landscape in my head, and it’s such a well-written story. There’s a reason Joe R. Lansdale is on this list twice. His work is so straight-forward, so American and lovely and unflinching.
Concerns: Only that the director wouldn’t treat the material with the respect that it deserves.
Casting Possibilities: I’m not quite sure for Harry. Maybe Kodi Smit-McPhee? Jacob could be played by a few different actors . . . offhand, I kind of like Viggo Mortensen. And as far as directing goes, Frank Darabont’s a possibility, but I’ll tell you the person I’d really like to see is Clint Eastwood.
That’s it for now. Maybe I’ll come back with a “And 10 More Books to Adapt” list after I read some better novels.
26 thoughts on “10 Books I Would Like To See (Good) Film Adaptations Of.”
Note to self: read The Bottoms, The Child Thief, Hero, Boneshaker, and then maybe the rest?
If we’re allowed to nominate books that have already been adapted badly, I would kill to see David Almond’s Skellig done by people who actually understood the book, and were happy to keep it low-key.
Never heard of Skellig before. Am now looking it up 🙂
Books that have already been adapted—but atrociously—is another list I should make at some point. Dreamcatcher is very, very high on that list for me. Although it could also be on the: Why Did You Even Try to Adapt This list? Seriously, I like the book, but it’s very problematic, and it’s like the filmmakers were just setting themselves up for failure. (Although I could never have guessed just how much failure they would manage to accomplish in just two hours.)
Would it be adaptations that are bad as adaptations (e.g. just used the material as a jumping off point for the story they actually wanted to tell, but are actually pretty decent if viewed on their own) or adaptations that are just plain old bad?
Hmm, I’m looking it up, and the Rotten Tomatoes blurbs make Dreamcatcher sound pretty entertaining, in a so-bad-it’s-good way?
Probably two different lists. Yay. I like lists 🙂
I’m not sure about Dreamcatcher. I’ve only seen it once and not in years, so it’s hard for me to judge it on the so-bad-it’s-good scale because I only really remember my slack jawed horror and disappointment on just how BAD it was. Timothy Olyphant and Jason Lee are the only good things about this movie. Damien Lewis is supposed to be a really good actor, but you wouldn’t know it from this, and I’ve never seen him in anything else. (Don’t have Showtime.) Thomas Jane just destroys my favorite character. And I don’t even know what the hell happened to Morgan Freeman. Presumably the weight of his ridiculous eyebrows sapped him of his ability to act.
Oh, and then there’s the whole ending.
At some point, I’ll watch it again because the cruel nature of my heart longs for a good scathing review 🙂
I just wanted to thank you for introducing me to Joe Lansdale. I’ve now read The Bottoms and Sunset & Sawdust, in addition to a whole bunch of his other books.
RE: casting possibilities for The Bottoms, I bet Ursula Parker from Louie would be great as Tom, except don’t know what she’d be like at the accent.
You’re exceedingly welcome. It makes me inordinately happy to talk to another Joe R. Lansdale fan, so I’m glad to have infected you. 🙂
I haven’t actually watched Louie yet, but I’ll take your word for it on the casting. 🙂
Well, I guess it wasn’t entirely you. I happened across a couple of short horror stories of his by chance, in two different editions of a “best of the year” horror anthology series I was reading. Both would’ve been somewhere in the top four or five of their respective editions, and I remembered the name from your blog and figured I should finally check him out properly. Then I ended up reading The Bottoms in one night, so.
Oh, and you might like some of Vol. 1 of the anthology series, which is put together by Ellen Datlow. I wasn’t a fan of every story (*glares at Very Low-Flying Aircraft*) but one of them, Girl In Pieces, is so very much like the kind of premises you’ve come out with… I hope you wouldn’t be baffled and insulted by that comparism if you read it. It also has The Narrows, which is my favourite from the entire series, and creepy enough that I significantly freaked out my grandma and her carer just recounting it to them.
Hush, you! It was entirely me! Only me!
I haven’t read that particular volume yet — I’ll have to look at it, or at the very least, find “Girl in Pieces.” (I’ll let you know, but I doubt very much that I’ll be insulted.) There are so many anthologies to read, and annoyingly, it takes some work for me to actually sit down and read them. I do like reading short stories — I certainly like writing them — but I struggle getting through whole collections or anthologies sometimes, although there are at least half a dozen that I’m interested in. John Joseph Adams’s collection of mad scientist stories, for instance? I absolutely have to read that.
I’d love to see these movies, they are such a contrast to the generic films we have nowadays!
To quote Alfred E. Neuman: Blecch!
So, I loved the Last Vampire series when i was younger. This is the second time in recent days that it has randomly shown up in something. Maye the universe telling me to go buy (all) the books and re-read them? 😉 I totally agree with you about that. I was surprised to have a book on here that I’ve actually read, though.
And now I have several other books to find and read. Thanks for that! 🙂
The first one was always my favorite. I still have the entire series, but I didn’t love the direction it took. Wasn’t a big fan of the Kalika development. Loved Seymour, though. Seymour was my favorite character.
Those kind of do all look like garbage.
Wow, who let the snobs in? I haven’t read most of these, but I would like to see Lamb done correctly as a movie. It would be gross and offensive and hilarious and completely heartbreaking. I really don’t know what they’d do about the casting. Pop culture and I had a messy divorce years ago, so I can’t even think of anyone to play the three leads.
It’d be a tricky movie to make—probably the trickiest on this list—but if it was done right . . . man, it would be awesome 🙂
Ah, I guess there will always be people who care about quality and those who don’t. I do like a good number of books and movies that would be considered crap but which have crossed into the so-bad-it’s-good territory and none of these made it quite that far. I might have liked the Last Vampire series if I’d read them when I was a lot younger, and would probably have a soft spot for them today if that had happened. I’m not sure how anyone could justify that retelling of Peter Pan, though, as it’s completely unnecessary. Anyone who thinks Peter Pan needed to be any “darker” (a term usually used when someone wants to use what Bill Watterson called “gut-splattering violence” or gratuitious sex or any stock horror elements) hasn’t read it or missed the point. ‘Nuff said.
Well, thank you for that broad generalization. You’re correct about one thing: I haven’t read J.M. Barrie’s play. Am I correct when I assume that you haven’t read The Child Thief? It is a dark retelling or reimagining of the story, but I would seriously disagree that every dark retelling is a gratuitous waste of time. People like to look at classic stories through different angles. Sometimes, it doesn’t work. But sometimes, it really does. I believe there can be a lot of value in reexamining a classic tale. And The Child Thief is an absolutely beautiful book, well worthy of being made into a film. It is a bloody novel, but it’s not a tasteless one. I get that you aren’t interested, and that’s fine, it’s not for you, but when you paint everyone who found worth in the work with the exact same brush and assume that they’re all just people looking for a cheap, gory thrill, well, it’s hard not to be annoyed or offended by your trivialization.
When I was a kid, I devoured The Last Vampire series, and I think the first book would be an awesome film. I also feel like Stephanie Meyer stole stome crap from it, she HAD to have read them!(and watched Roswell where she also grabbed a few details from). I really enjoyed them. I attempted to go back and read several Christopher Pike books I’d saved all these years, but I couldn’t get into them again sadly. (side note, did you read other Pike books? I recall my favorites being Slumber Party, Bury Me Deep and the one about the dude who smacks chicks in the face with a hammer while they’re sleeping…I forget the demented title to that one)
Funny thing. I did read a lot of Christopher Pike in middle school (skipped the beginning R.L. Stine phase entirely and went straight from Pike to Stephen King) but I don’t remember any of those books. My other favorites were Remember Me and Master of Murder. In fact, I almost put Remember Me on this list.
I need to google Remember Me. When did that come out, do you remember?
the first two covers are different than my old copies but that last one is the cover for The Wicked Heart and as you can probably tell it’s the one where the dude smashes his crushes in the face. It was messed up!
According to Wikipedia, Remember Me came out in 1989. It was actually the beginning of a trilogy, but I can’t stand the other books, so I sort of pretend they don’t exist. It’s about a teenage girl who’s murdered at a birthday party She teams up with another ghost to try and figure out who killed her.
The Wicked Heart sounds fun. Maybe I’ll look it up sometime:)
Those are books that you kind of have to read as a kid. As for Stephanie Meyer, it’s funny how some writers can get a big hit out of weak material when other writers are higher quality are ignored. Take the massively popular Harry Potter vs the almost unknown Dark Is Rising series which got one really lame movie.
I’ve never heard of any of these except Lamb. Moore is an author I’ve been wanting to check out, but I’ve still yet to read any of his work.
With the exception of a few dabbles in horror, I don’t read much genre fiction. A lot of the stuff I read tends to rely more on characters and language, and less on plot, so I’m having a hard time thinking of books I’d like to see adapted to the big screen. Many of my favorite books have either already been adapted (Grapes of Wrath, The Shining, Fahrenheit 451) or aren’t translatable to the screen (Catcher in the Rye, Sound and the Fury, Updike’s Rabbit Angstrom series).
The Stand is one of my favorite books, and I know it was made into a mini-series (which I’ve never seen), but I’d like to see someone take a big budget and turn it into a real film. Studios like breaking books into two and three movies nowadays to try to make more money anyway, so the same could be done for The Stand.
I enjoyed the miniseries, but there are definitely some deviations from the novel, and a bigger budget for the special effects and makeup department would be much appreciated. I’d definitely like to see The Stand on the big screen, though.
They are making The Stand into a movie. Ben Affleck is set to direct, and they have the screenwriters, I think. They are also in discussions to make It for the big screen, too. I’m split about this, because I loved the miniseries of both of them (although not as much as I loved the books). They have to cut so much out of Stephen King’s books, though, that to me, they almost aren’t worth it (re: Bag of Bones, on A&E recently. Yikes.) I will still see The Stand when it’s released, though, although seeing Stu, Fran, Nick, and Tom recast… Most of them, actually. I don’t like change. 🙂
For Lamb, disregarding age and just focusing on the latter half of the novel, I’d cast Maya Rudolph as Maggie and Bradley Cooper as Josh (Slap a tan on that mofo). I’d put Misha Collins as Biff because that guy is just so pro-star at dead panning seriously funny stuff. Bam. Star trio. Richard Griffiths as Balthasar and Gong Li as Joy.